Last season, the Boston Celtics were the best defensive team in the NBA.
They used their defensive identity to make it all the way to the 2022 NBA Finals, where they came up just two wins short of the title.
This season, the Celtics are looking to return to the NBA Finals and finish the job.
They’re 3-1 through their first four games and have looked good for the most part, but they have struggled on the defensive end at times, which is something fans probably weren’t expecting.
Marcus Smart, who won last season’s Defensive Player of the Year award, wants his squad to turn things around on that end of the floor.
Marcus Smart says we have to “start defending like we used to.”
“We've got all the tools. We know what it takes. We know the mindset we have to have. We’ve just gotta go do it.”
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 28, 2022
The season is still extremely young, so the Celtics have plenty of time to work things out defensively.
Moreover, Ime Udoka had a big hand in the team’s defensive success last season, and now that Joe Mazzulla has taken over for Udoka, there’s likely a learning curve at play.
Still, fans would love to see the team start to tighten up on defense sooner than later.
Last Season’s Defense Vs. This Season’s Defense
Last season, the Celtics posted the best defensive rating in the league.
This season, that hasn’t been the case.
- Boston’s defensive rating in 2021-22 season: 106.2 (best in NBA)
- Boston’s defensive rating so far this season: 117.0 (24th in NBA)
Similarly, the Celtics allowed the fewest points per game in the NBA last season, but this season, they’ve taken a step back.
- Points per game allowed by Boston in 2021-22 season: 104.5 (best in NBA)
- Points per game allowed by Boston so far this season: 115.3 (19th in NBA)
These are certainly things worth keeping an eye on, but again, the season just started.
The sample size is small, and Mazzulla will likely need some time to get everyone on the same page defensively.
A few months from now, the Celtics could be one of the best defensive teams in the league once again.